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Prepaid Expense Cards are an Ideal Solution for Educational Stipends

Non-Profit Organization Decreases Fraud, Risk for Students

The Harlem Children’s Zone® (HCZ) in New York City serves thousands of area children and families through its educational, social service and health programs, with a focus on community building to help break the cycle of generational poverty.

As part of the nonprofit’s educational focus, it serves high school students in its three charter schools; media and arts after-school programs; and technology- and college-focused, after-school and summer programs. About 2,000 students in grades 9-12 receive a stipend issued to them via a CommercePayments® Prepaid Expense Card from Visa®. They receive these biweekly stipends for meeting certain goals such as class participation, attendance and grade achievement.

Prepaid Expense Cards were introduced in fall 2019 and have helped students learn financial literacy, assist with family expenses and make online purchases. Long term, HCZ may switch to Prepaid Expense Cards for its college programs, a change that would enable students to electronically pay for room, board and tuition.

Minimizing Fraud and Risk

The organization has realized many advantages of prepaid expense cards over checks.

“Fraud was rampant with our check program. Prepaid Expense Cards were an ideal solution to significantly reduce that issue for us,” said Kai Ho, treasury director.

The Prepaid Expense Cards can easily be replaced if lost or stolen, which was a big benefit for HCZ. The use of checks for teenage students carried inherent risks such as loss or theft. If that occurred, some checks were manipulated for duplicate deposits.

Maximizing Efficiency

Additionally, HCZ is creating internal efficiencies for its small finance staff. HCZ used to manually cut and mail thousands of checks — a time consuming task that has been replaced with a 15-minute electronic upload. Prepaid Expense Cards also enable the organization to unload funds in real-time if a student doesn’t meet his or her benchmark.

“Onboarding students to use the Prepaid Expense Cards was pretty smooth thanks to the amazing customer support from Commerce Bank,” said Ho. “We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from students, and they have been happy with the transition away from checks.”

“The Commerce Bank Prepaid Expense Card program is amazing. We searched high and low and found a solution that meets our students’ needs.”
— Kai Ho
Treasury Director, Harlem Children’s Zone

CommercePayments® solutions are provided by Commerce Bank.

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